Chelsea Women missed out on a place in the Continental Tyres League Cup final after losing to Manchester City, with manager Emma Hayes lamenting the decisive first goal going the visitors’ way.
Games against one of our biggest rivals are always among our tightest each season and whichever side goes in front typically goes on to take the victory.
That was certainly the case at a sodden Kingsmeadow last night, when the Blues were unable make our first-half dominance count on the scoreboard, as a succession of missed chances left the teams deadlocked at the break.
Then, five minutes into the second half, City won a penalty on the counter through the pace of Nikita Parris, who subsequently converted from the spot. The England forward added a second late on, which was also against the run of play, to put the seal on the win.
‘I’ve said it all along – you have got to take your chances,’ said Hayes after the game. ‘We dominated the first half, our shape caused them problems, but the first goal is always defining in these games – they have been in every fixture we've played.
‘We had three glorious chances in the first half and we didn’t take them. There were five chances for us, two for them and they took them. That’s the reality. If we'd been 2-0 up at half-time, we might have been talking about a different outcome.
‘Look, Parris took her chances, we didn't take ours, and that’s the difference. A year ago we were converting those chances.
‘We made an error and conceded a penalty – I think that affected the team mentally, then we were chasing. We made the pitch too narrow in the second half.’
Defeat means the Continental Tyres League Cup will stay out of our grasp for at least another season, a point of frustration for the players as it remains the only domestic honour many of them are yet to win.
However, Hayes could not fault the effort of those who took to the field on Wednesday night and she is looking forward to doing it all again with Manchester City at the weekend, when we travel to the North-West for our next WSL fixture on Sunday.
‘We are competitive,’ she added. ‘We know what we have to do. It’s not like we are unaware. We have to perform. We have to make sure we pay attention to the things that make the difference and we have to take our chances, especially the first one.
‘The players have never let me down, no chance. They are working hard, and they try. That doesn’t always mean you succeed. As I say to all my players it’s a team game where everybody is responsible for scoring goals. I'm not going to put that pressure on them
‘We will prepare with a strong mentality. This group can pick themselves up, they are good at that. We've got a great dressing room, but we're disappointed. Who's not?’